A LARC, or lighter amphibious resupply cargo vessel, is not a vehicle you expect to see every day. Only 1000 were ever made; 500 of which were destroyed after the Vietnam War. About 200 were retained by the United States Army, while others were sent to military allies in Australia, Argentina, Portugal, the Philippines and Iceland.
The Town of 1770 on the Discovery Coast, north of Bundaberg, is home to a small but proud fleet of bright pink LARCs. How they came to be one of the Southern Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic tourism experiences is a story of chance.
The late Des Mergard and his wife, Betty, were living in Mundubbera where Des worked in earth moving. Des and his youngest son, Neil, built a charter boat in their backyard and subsequently the family moved to Agnes Water. Betty said they named it Captain James Cook and started offering tours, but Des had his sights set on obtaining a LARC.
“Des and Neil wanted to share the coastline of Bustard Bay and the history of Bustard Head Lighthouse, but the ever changing and challenging terrain was no good for a 4WD or a boat alone. They needed a specialty vessel,” Betty said.
“There just wasn’t a LARC available anywhere, until Des found one by chance at a car yard not far away in Rockhampton. It was pink and the owner, Bartley Olsen, was using it as a promotional billboard. Des named it Sir Joseph Banks, after a botanist who came to Australia on the Endeavour, and left it pink.”
They found a second LARC in Sydney in 1997. The family named it Dr Daniel Solander, after Captain Cook’s other botanist, and painted both LARC vessels a brighter shade of pink.
In the 27 years since 1770 LARC! Tours began, the Eco-Certified business has been involved in countless rescues, beach clean-ups, weddings and special events. 1770 LARC! Tours hosted Dr Chris Brown and the ‘Twinnies’, seabird carers Paula and Bridgette Powers, during the filming of an episode of Bondi Vet. In 2018, they took the Queen’s Baton for a ‘splashdown’ as part of the Commonwealth Games relay. And just last year, they assisted Ergon Energy crews to transition the lighthouse to solar power.
You can visit 1770 LARC! Tours at 535 Captain Cook Drive, Town of 1770